Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon MSP addressed Scotland’s tourism industry this morning at the Scottish Tourism Alliance (STA) Autumn Conference at the EICC in Edinburgh, describing Scotland’s tourism industry as “one of the most important, vibrant and successful sectors of the Scottish economy”.
She added: “The on-going success of our tourism sector reflects the talent, dedication and creativity of the estimated 207,000 people who work in it, and as a powerful voice representing the sector the Scottish Tourism Alliance deserves a huge amount of credit for its success. This conference is an opportunity to discuss the very real challenges and the significant opportunities the sector faces and to set out the Scottish Government’s determination to support tourism in all parts of our country.”
The First Minister also announced details of a £1 million investment into the development of a new forest tourism attraction that is expected to leverage more than £10.7 million of private sector funding and bring thousands of new visitors to the south of Scotland.
Scottish Government funding to Forest Enterprise Scotland will support plans for 16km of new mountain biking trails, multi-use paths and other infrastructure improvements which are part of a wider 56 eco-cabin development at Glentress Forest.
The annual tourism industry event also welcomed Caroline Bremner, Head of Travel Research at global market intelligence publisher, Euromonitor International, to share her analysis and insights into what the long-term outlook looks like for Scotland’s tourism sector.
Under a No-Deal Brexit scenario, Caroline said: “The UK is expected to witness a further depreciation of the pound by 10%, making the UK more affordable to key source markets from North America and Europe. However, there is still a great deal of uncertainty regarding the UK and EU’s position on vital areas such as air travel regulation, visas and European workers.”
Talking future trends, she said: “It’s vital that the tourism industry taps into the consumer desire for experiences created by people for people, new business models such as the sharing economy that allow visitors to get to the heart of a destination, exploring local neighbourhoods and discovering hidden gems”
Kate Nicholls, Chief Executive of UKHospitality, talked about the very real risk of tangible and long-term damage to the sector in relation to the shortage of workers, the skills crisis, economic uncertainty and the acute concern from industry around the introduction of a new migration system which could, according to the trade body, undermine a major part of the UK economy. She also called on the UK Government to provide decisive support for hospitality businesses through a cut in VAT, outlining the cost pressures that continue to squeeze many businesses.
Dr Richard Swannell, Director of WRAP Global delivered a ‘wake up call’ for food producers, consumers and tourism businesses in the context of waste management and sustainability. The newly launched Food Tourism Action Plan was the focus for the afternoon with former President of Virgin Galactic, Will Whitehorn wrapping up the day with his personal thoughts on bringing more innovation and creative thinking into our tourism industry.